All over South Africa, the rest of the continent and the world, there are women who are terrified of labour and are overwhelmed at the prospect of giving birth. They are bombarded by birth horror stories from other women, while doctors and nurses (and even some midwives) stand back and let them believe these exaggerations. These women are scared and helpless and they’re crying out, ‘We need a hero!’ (in the voice of Bonnie Tyler, of course.)
You, ordinary midwife, can be that hero; you have the power to ensure that women, babies, and families get the best possible start. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and you have the responsibility to empower the women crying out to you.
There are three vital superpowers you can bring to any birth situation, so duck into the nearest phone booth and get ready to become a superhero!
One of a midwife’s roles is being an educator – how many unnecessary pregnancy, labour, and birth interventions take place because women are given false information? Or information with some facts left out? Your job is to ensure that women are told the whole truth and to provide clarity in unclear situations.
2. Create a suitable atmosphere
Individual birthing facilities and doctors have their own delivery protocols, but you can make a huge difference in the delivery ward by:
- Encouraging moms to walk in the first stage of labour – even just to the loo every half-hour will help – to assist dilation
- Offering her a cup of tea to enjoy with her partner to relax her and banish anxieties which could halt labour
- Suggesting she play music and keep a comfort object nearby
- Encouraging her to go on all fours for relief, especially of backache
- Making it possible for her to rest by sitting on an armless chair with her pelvis splayed and her head cushioned on the back of the chair
- Doing intermittent monitoring instead of continuous EFM
- Protecting her dignity and need for privacy and an emotionally and physically quiet space to labour in
- Feeling the wonder of labour and the miracle of the birth yourself – you’ll pass these feelings on to her!
3. Reveal her inner-hero
There comes a time when all heroes have to step into side-kick mode. You need to become a mom’s champion by offering her encouragement and compassionate support – simply telling her how well she’s doing and how capable she is makes a world of difference! You can also:
- Massage her aching back and limbs
- Remind her that labour has more pain-free times than painful ones
- Create a peaceful space for her to find her own method of dealing with things
- Bolster her spirits when she flags – letting her feel Baby’s head in the vaginal outlet can work wonders for morale!
- Make sure she rests between contractions
- Offer her light foods and drinks of water and rooibos tea to maintain her energy and hydration levels
You – yes you, ordinary midwife – have incredible power; you affect lives! The question is: what are you going to do with that power?